On my local library's giveaway shelf, I found a used hardcover of this book:
Bel Kaufman's Up the Down Staircase. I have a paperback, but I'm glad to be able to replace it with a sturdier hardback.
I must mention one of the delights of used books. It contains this
inscription on the flyleaf: "To Mrs. Deutsch from the Class of '67 as a
remembrance of UM." I'll just let your imagination decide who Mrs.
Deutsch was and what her relationship with the Class of '67 was like.
Up the Down Staircase
came out in the mid-'60s, but it's incredibly relatable today. With
just a few tweaks of the technology and a couple of the topical
allusions, the story could be set today. It features Sylvia Barrett, an
idealistic English major fresh out of grad school, in her first year
teaching in the New York public school system. She writes, "Many of our
kids--though physically mature--can't read beyond 4th or 5th grade
level. ... They've been exposed to some ten years of schooling, yet they
don't know what a sentence is. The books we are required to teach
frequently have nothing to do with anything except the fact that they
have always been taught, or that there is an oversupply of them, or that
some committee or other was asked to come up with titles."
teachers face a mountain of meaningless paperwork tied up with endless
red tape. There is never any money in the budget to fix broken windows
or order new books or even provide a desk and chair for every student.
There is the administrator who values the letter of the law above all
else. There are the students who can't sit still, who don't show up to
class. There are the students whose problems are more than a single
teacher can handle: not enough to eat; unplanned pregnancy; attempted
suicide; family troubles. There are the kids who simply drop out of
sight. Learning, when it happens, happens against all odds. It's rather
amazing how little the problems of education have changed in the past
fifty years. The only thing missing from the book that would be present
in today's school experience is the addiction to standardized tests.
the book is humorous throughout. The humor comes from the built-in
absurdity found in many institutional settings where there's never
enough time or money, and there's one set of rules for a diverse,
one-size-does-not-fit-all population. The book is also written in an
engaging format: letters, notes, doodles, scraps, notebooks, and so it
is technically a multiple-narrator book.
Have you read it?
source of recommended read: one copy bought, one copy from library giveaway